This morning I joined about two dozen people in the Kanabec County Jail to talk with Senator Klobuchar’s staff about broadband, infrastructure and housing. It’s always enlightening to hear from folks on the frontlines about this issues. I archived all of the meeting. I’ve kept my notes to broadband.
What’s happening in federal level?
Precision Ag Task Force – put into place.
Measuring economic impact of broadband – especially in rural Minnesota
Marc Johnsonof ECMECC outlined local issues:
Our incumbent benefited from CAF II. There have been improvements for some people but it’s spotty. The real problem is that spotty coverage has made us an unattractive business case.
The USDA has programs in place but we don’t qualify because a provider used the CAF II funding to lift us to a place where the service is still not adequate community-wide but in the eyes for the federal government, we’re too well served to qualify for more help.
Because the mapping goes my census block – it means if one person is served, the whole tract is considered served. It leaves us with a false positive – because on a practical basis we aren’t served.
This is a regional issue. We have one-to-one (computer in schools) programs here but not all of them have access to broadband at home. The library is busy all of the time because people can’t access broadband at home. It proves the need. Sometimes kids can’t even take these classes with online homework.
We use USF in schools and libraries. That is used heavily. We have looked at ways the school could support community use but the rules are prohibitive. The network at the school is unused between 3pm and 7 am. It seems like an opportunity to meet community need but policy prevents it.
Healthcare is moving online. That means if you are unserved at home and need healthcare – you can’t get remote care. You lose your liberty and it costs more to serve those people in healthcare facilities.
I spoke to a woman after the session who remarked that broadband is really at the hear of everything. She pointed out that with broadband people can stay in their homes longer, which saves money (and improves lives) and less need for transportation (to and from healthcare facilities). With broadband, students can do homework, prepare for the future and take a wider range of classes. She’s right!